Community Editorial: Location Matters On Great Park Vet Cemetary

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During one’s life experiences, a person develops multiple relationships ( e. g., parents, siblings, spouse, children, extended family, friends, colleagues, pets, etc.).

Yet for military veterans, especially combat veterans, there is a special emotional bond, which is difficult for non-veterans to understand and appreciate.

Often, when a combat veteran is asked to explain the emotional bond one has with his/her combat buddies, it is very challenging for a combat veteran to articulate in words that a non-veteran, even a non-combat veteran, can truly understand and much less appreciate. I, as a non-combat veteran, have witnessed this with my own family members who are combat veterans.

I would suggest that one can also develop a strong relationship with a section of land, a state, a country, a battlefield and a military base.

It is my contention that when military personnel are deployed from a military base located in the good old USA to a foreign land and assigned to a combat zone, one’s relationship with his/her last connection with American soil becomes paramount.

During World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War, hundreds, if not thousands, of Marine and Navy personnel experienced such a relationship at the old Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, now called the Orange County Great Park.

Sadly, hundreds of such military personnel did not return to re-connect with American soil.

Those who were fortunate to return to MCAS El Toro were no longer the same given the horrors of war. However, one could safely speculate that while the men and women who returned from war were indeed no longer the same they all had one common relationship; they re-connected with MCAS El Toro and at last were safely back on American soil. In a sense, MCAS El Toro became “hallow ground” as they stepped off the aircraft and again touched American soil. For most of the returning veterans, there were no words to clearly describe the experience; a visible sigh of relief was the common tangible sight.

Currently, there is a grassroots effort initiated by a group of veterans and veteran advocates, now known as the Orange County Veterans Memorial Park Foundation, who are leading a charge to establish a state veterans cemetery at the old MCAS El Toro site.

One of the unwritten guiding principles of this group is to provide hundreds of aging veterans the opportunity to be interred in the “hallow ground” for which they have such a bonding relationship. The opportunity and relationship with this “hallowed ground” can best be summarized by comments stated by a retired Marine couple, who were married at the MCAS chapel, “We truly hope a cemetery will be established at the proposed site, as both my husband and I wish to be buried at the proposed cemetery. However, if the cemetery is built at another site, we will chose to be buried elsewhere.”

Does location really matter?

Ask the referenced Marine couple and their response will be a firm yes! Ask the military personnel/veterans who were shipped from MCAS El Toro and the collective answer is an exclamatory, Hell yes!!

Yet ask the members of the Irvine City Ad Hoc Committee, which has been charged to locate at least 100 acres at the Orange County Great Park site, and you may be surprised by the answer of some the members.

Tonight, the Irvine city council will again take up the matter.

I strongly encourage everyone to attend and ask, “Does Location Really Matter?”

Dr. Richard Ramirez is the newest member of the Voice of OC Community Editorial Board and is a retired educational administrator having grown up in Fullerton and is now active with American Legion Post 277 among other volunteer efforts.

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